Canada: Giving voice to a silent witness

26 February 2010

Domestic violence is a problem that not only affects families but also affects communities, and last week 100 members of the community attended a Silent Witness ceremony in recognition of Bernice Gertrude (Falkenham) Mills at the Fundy Geological Museum. Her husband shot Mills to death in her home before he turned the gun on himself on Oct. 17, 1997. Mills was 58 years old when she died.

During the ceremony, Mills’s daughter, Donna Chandler, her aunt, Dora Fuller and Nova Scotia attorney general and minister of justice Ross Landry, unveiled a red silhouette in honour of Mills.

“Each silhouette represents a murdered woman,” Lydia Quinn, of Silent Witness Nova Scotia, said. “Each one bears a shield and a general remember me silhouette is in honour of all women who have been killed or who are currently experiencing domestic violence.

“Part of what Silent Witness is about is to give voice to those women,” Quinn added. “Since 1990 there have been 44 confirmed cases of women in Nova Scotia killed by their intimate partners, 23 more cases are unconfirmed. Each woman has a tragic and unique story.”

After the unveiling of the silhouette, Mills’s aunt said, “Bernice had six children, three girls and three boys. “

“She attended the Parrsboro school in her earlier years and also Oxford,”

Fuller added. “She was a good mother and a beautiful housekeeper and a gardener and she loved flowers. After moving to Halfway River she walked two miles twice a day, rain or shine, and she loved to go on bus trips with seniors.”

Fuller also talked about seeing a 20-year-old Mills standing beside her seated father.

“She was a lovely, shy, dark haired girl, with beautiful brown eyes.”
Landry, who began his law enforcement career with the RCMP 35 years ago, talked about how the community can work together to end domestic violence.

“I know the statistics between 2006 and 2007 show a significant drop in the crime rate, but what’s alarming is that the number of instances of spousal violence reported climbed from 652 to 826 for a 27 per cent increase,” Landry said. Domestic violence impacts mostly women and they are often hospitalized and are more likely to live in fear for their life.

“Through Silent Witness we can make a difference.”

Landry said that resources need to be used efficiently to combat domestic violence.

“Resources not only mean money but the people who dedicate their time and knowledge to such a worthy cause - people such as yourselves in this room.”

“The emotional underline that is created in the community from violence of this nature is more far reaching than the immediate family,” Landry added. “When there’s a violation such as this in the community, it harms the whole community and it threatens our children and I believe that Bernice Mills has brought us together today to strengthen our commitment to the cause so less women will have to experience what she has to endure.”

Originally published on 25 February 2010 in The Amherst Citizen.
Original article online at:

The Amherst Citizen